Way back before history was written some people in Peru came up with a clever piece of clothing that kept you warm and let you move easily. It was also easy to make. It was basically a square or rectangle piece of material with a hole for your head to slip through. It hasn’t changed much since.
Except now you have two kinds: The rain, or emergency poncho and the heavy material to keep you warm and snuggly.
For camping I like to bring along the warm and snuggly kind. When you get to camp you can unload all your gear store things here and there but none of it has to be carried at all times. The warm and heavy duty ponchos can be a little more weight than you may want to carry all the time.
Most of the warmth ponchos are made from heavy duty wool, cotton, memp, or some fiber blends. They can be as creative in the design as there are colors in the rainbow. It’s like wearing a blanket. Which is the general idea behind the p[oncho. So, at the campfire, roasting things, talking, making quality time, is the perfect time to wrap up in a blanket, or a poncho.
They are great at camps but not so much for hiking and backpacking, that’s where the emergency, or rain poncho comes in.
The rain ponchos usually weigh next to nothing and can be stored easily in any pack. Most importantly though. THEY WORK! When the time comes for you to need protection from precipitation, you can’t beat the rain poncho.
Most of them have a hood, to cover your head and hang down your arms and to about mid-thigh. That’s almost complete body coverage from something that weighs a few ounces and can roll up into the smallest of spaces.
Rain ponchos don’t just keep you dry, they keep your pack dry too. This can be a big benefit if you have things strapped to your pack instead of stored inside it. It’s also good extra protection for the electronics some of us carry when we go out.
I carry my phone on hikes and trips to take pictures and other things sometimes. But on some trips, I bring my laptop too. I love to write while I’m out there. Having an extra layer between my stuff and the weather is a wonderful feeling.
A good rain poncho can also make a makeshift shelter if need be. Especially if you carry two of them. You can make a nice little dry space to wait out the rain with just ponchos and duct tape, or string, or bungee cords, or branches, Necessity is the mother of invention, and when it looks like it’s about to pour, I can get pretty creative on making a dry habitat. I have pictures to prove it, thanks to the rain poncho.
What to look for
When you start looking for a poncho you first need to consider your budget. There are ponchos available or all budgets. Anywhere from under $10 to over $500. They will all do their job, but some have extras that increase their price, and others last longer.
You also need to look at their coverage. Some hang lower than others. The sleeves are longer on some. Some don’t have sleeves; they just droop over you. Some of them come in sizes too. It’s a lot like other clothing.
You have to look at the material they are made out of too. Some last longer than others because the materials are more durable or thicker.
Some of the newer rain ponchos even have pockets on them. It acts like a little dry bag that you can get too easily. I like them. You won't carry much in them, but some things being that easy to reach is nice. Like beef jerky or trail mix. Neither of them wants to get wet, but I do tend to snack sometimes on the trail. I wouldn’t recommend putting electronics in them, but if you think it’s safe feel free to try.
The blanket ponchos are as varied as the rain ponchos. Some of them are even considered fashionable. I cannot recommend anything because of fashion. I am not an expert at fashion. It’s usually not the concern on people's minds when they go camping and hiking, but I’m sure there are some out there, I just haven't met them.
The price on the blanket ponchos I know about usually has to do with the fiber it’s made from and how thick it is. Wool is more than cotton; hemp is more than wool and the durability are usually along those lines as well. But if you take care of something it should last longer than you would expect.
So, thanks to some very smart people in prehistory, we have a blanket we can walk in. Thanks to modern materials we have a lightweight and completely waterproof blanket we can walk around in. A blanket that can also turn into a shelter for the storm but still only weighs a few ounces.
You should most definitely have at least one tucked away in your pack, but 2 is better. You never know when someone else might need our assistance. The “probably won't but could happen” happen to us all, and it’s all of our duty to prepare for them, even if they don’t happen to us.
If you are going camping or carrying your gear in something I would highly recommend a traditional blanket poncho. They make time at the campfire even better. I leave the fashion choices to you.
Whatever you are doing in the outdoors, carry a poncho. It could turn that “Oh no” into “I got this”, or that “this is nice” into “the best thing ever”. They were pretty smart people who invented the poncho. Pretty smart indeed.
Enjoy the Outdoors. Life is out Here!